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Local Jesuits excited about election of new pope

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Mar 13 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 14 2013 05:58:11 PM CDT

Francis is a pope of many firsts, including the first Jesuit pontiff.

WERNERSVILLE, Pa. -

Pope Francis is a pope of many firsts including the first Jesuit pontiff. The priests at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Berks Co., are excited and surprised one of their own is the new church leader.

The Jesuits are an order of priests known to be educators in the Catholic world.

"When Ignatius was inclined to found a new religious order in the 16th century, there was a great need for reform and reform from the body up," said Father Joe Currie, the rector at the Jesuit Center.

Jesuits, as reformers, are not inclined to be bishops, cardinals or a pope, Currie said.

"I think they're all excited but surprised," said Father Joe.

A community of priests at the Jesuit Center do outreach throughout Berks County, and Currie said he was in the right place when Pope Francis was revealed.

"I was up at Alvernia, which is a Franciscan college, just helping out until they find a Catholic chaplain over there," said Currie, noting that the students were watching the news. "There was excitement because some of the students in campus ministry are from Latin America, so there was great excitement there."

They were celebrating because the new pope is from Argentina, and Currie was celebrating because they're from the same order.

"I was at a Franciscan place yesterday and a Jesuit was named pope, so it was quite apropos," said Francis, who added that the name says a lot about the new pope. "Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century heard a voice from Jesus saying, 'Rebuild my church.' So that may be the reason why he chose the name Saint Francis of Assisi."

Pope Francis could rebuild today's church, Currie said.

"He's a man of the Gospel," he said. "I think that's what the church needs today, to give up its grandeur and its entitlements and things like that and to get with the people."